Archive for February, 2009

Feb 28 2009

Ben Cooper – Patients


It’s becoming increasingly difficult in today’s music industry to see artists initiating connections with their fans. With the instant gratification both bands and fans have demanded with innovations in technology, I sometimes feel that less emphasis is put on the culture of music, and more is put on the business aspect. Both sides are obviously important, but as a species bound by incentives, I really appreciate when people find as much reward in connections and the sharing of ideas, as they do in monetary value.

This is one of the reasons why I feel so attached to Ben Cooper’s music. He is in the duo Electric President and also has a great side project called Radical Face. Both are signed to Morr music, and while Cooper understands the importance of having to make money just as much as the next guy, he also understands the need to go beyond that. Unlike many artists, who turn into businessmen and quickly forget about the art, Cooper has upheld his love for music to the fullest.

Cooper recently started a project called “Patients,” which is more or less a compilation of recorded songs that never had a good home.  The project consisted of him personally producing 100 CDs and decorating it and its package with spray paint and markers. To receive one of the CDs, you had to trade something, anything, with Cooper, as long as it wasn’t money.


To get a full appreciation for how much time Cooper put into this project, you have to check out his site. Not only did he invest money—in producing the CDs, opening a P.O box, and paying postage– he also thoughtfully wrote about the entire project by listing the 100 trades that he received and the explanations behind each track on the album. It’s easy to tell how meaningful this project was to him. From his blog:

I feel odd using this phrase, but multiple times I found myself moved by the things someone traded or said — moved to sentiment, or laughter, or surprise. Some even left me scratching my head, or made me blush.

I love that many of you included letters with your packages, explaining your trades, and sometimes even sharing a little slice of your life with me. In many ways, that was my favorite part — getting little glimpses into what motivated you to do this, why you chose what you did, what it meant to you. I love stories, and genuinely appreciate that I got so many of them. And more than once I was pretty shocked that someone traded me something of such obvious sentiment to them. As strange as it may sound, this project was kind of reaffirming. It changed my outlook on people as a whole to something more optimistic. And the best thing is I didn’t see it coming. To be blindsided in a positive way is a wonderful thing.

This project also moved me, and I’m thrilled I was able to take part in it (can you guess which number I am?). It too left me with a feeling of optimism knowing we can still triumph our capitalist ways. I would have gladly paid to receive this album from Cooper, but it wouldn’t have held nearly the same value that it does this way. This is an album that I am never going to forget.

You can still participate in the project via email! Check here for details.


MP3: Doorways

“This was the last song I wrote on my former piano before the hammers got completely stuck and it had to be thrown out [read Dec 27th, 2007 post to read story, see piano.] It was originally just a scratch demo for a general sound I wanted to use on my next Radical Face record, but I kept running with it and liked how it came out. And since that piano died on my the next night, it wound up being the last song to ever come out of it.”

MP3: Tall Tale No. 5

“This is basically a country song. I wrote this song about 3 years ago, and recorded the drums for it while working on Astronautalis’s record “The Mighty Ocean …” down in Orlando. I tracked the guitars, banjo and bass when I returned home, but didn’t put any vocals or extra instruments on it due to getting sick. Then I forgot about it. So it sat on a hard drive for about a year and a half until I was making back-ups and stumbled upon the files. I still had the notebook with the lyrics, so I went ahead and finished it over the course of a night.”

Radical Face – Ghost (2007):

MP3:Radical Face- Welcome Home, Son

MP3:Radical Face – Wrapped in Piano Strings

Electric President – S/T (2006)

MP3 Electric President- Grand Machine No. 14

MP3 Electric President – Good Morning, Hypocrite

Site| Amazon | iTunes| Myspace

Buy Patients’s music at MusicFloss. Artists earn 100%.

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Feb 25 2009

From the Vaults: XTC – Skylarking (1986)

Published by under Alternative,Indie pop,MP3's

I only discovered XTC after I finally got sick of hearing Pretty & Nice consistently compared to them and not knowing who they were. So Pretty & Nice, I owe you for introducing me to Skylarking. This album has captured my mind for the last few weeks. I’ve left places early to go home and listen to it. If I have to walk somewhere, anywhere, if even for a minute, I’ll listen to Skylarking. Even 30 seconds of the first song. The hooks are irresistible. I’m slightly more insane for having heard this album. So cheers to my eroding sanity, and all hail Skylarking.

Skylarking has no grounding. The hooks float. They dive when they should pop, and explode when they’re bound to disappear. It’s entirely unpredictable pop music, a bit unsettling but ultimately enveloping. And that’s it, that’s the draw, the part that speaks to some evolutionary swirl beneath each passing listen. Of course the music stays the same, but the mind twists the interpretations and the associations. It’s nearly symbiotic in it’s infectiousness. The bass lines skirt the vocal melody in “Summer’s Cauldron” while jangly keyboards and piano build a dream-like foundation. There’s also a flute line that might have inspired the creation of the Forest Temple in Ocarina of Time. The bass/guitar interaction in “Meeting Place” is all Built to Spill, and the vocals punch from the ether, floating to and from existence before dissolving into lush, sweeping harmonies. Oh, and this lyric: “Machines that make you kiss in time.” There’s something oddly compelling about kissing in time. Romantic, even.

Also, this was released three days before I was born. Coincidence?

From Skylarking:

XTC – Summer’s Cauldron

XTC – The Meeting Place

XTC – Ballet for a Rainy Day

And this video is just strange.

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MySpace | Amazon

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Feb 25 2009

Song of the Day – 2/25/09

Published by under Alternative,MP3's,Song of the Day


It came to me as a pretty big surprise that the Bowling Green, KY’s Foxhole is frequently grouped in with the Christian genre. There is a certain level of quality we are used to with music of the “Christian” variety, and objectively, it has definitely been a limiting factor for some bands, who are immediately dismissed (for whatever reason) simply due to the fact that their music has a spiritual side. My experience with Foxhole’s 2004 LP (Reisued: Burnt Toast 2008), We The Wintering Tree, has led me to believe they are an intelligent and multi-faceted group of individuals with the ability to create well-layered rock music–in any scene. Moreover, almost all of the songs on the LP are, for the most part, vocal-free. Perhaps it’s just their prerogative.

Whatever connotations you associate with the Christian scene or otherwise, there are great moments to be had. Channeling epic sounds that remind me of Explosions in the Sky, Maps or I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness, Foxhole has a firm grasp on moving a song along and getting the most out of a particular motif or concept. There is a good deal to find in their music, although it can feel dry or played out at times. Most of the pleasure I’ve found in this album is rooted in its production and harmony. The album feels like it has glue holding it together. That is to say, the album is coherent. As an instrumental endeavor, guitarist and co-foudner Adam Moore has helped create a polyrhythmic sound–through use of horns, strings, sequencers and delay–that is as formidable as it is ethereal, as tasteful as it is an overload. Check it out:

MP3: Foxhole – “A Children’s Canto”

MP3: Foxhole – “The End of Dying”

MP3: Foxhole – “Dead Rimes”

MP3: Foxhole – “Forgiving Monarch” from the new Push/Pull EP

Home | Wiki | MySpace | AllMusic

Support Foxhole: Burnt Toast Vinyl | iTunes | Amazon | InSound

Foxhole are currently working on a new album, slated to drop Summer ’09.

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Feb 23 2009

Remembering Elliott Smith at the Academy Awards (1998)

Published by under Alternative,MP3's,Video


As a dedication to yesterday’s Oscars, I thought I’d help spread this video of Elliott Smith performing “Miss Misery” at the 1997 Academy Awards.  As many would agree, it’s one of the most beautifully written songs ever created, and it lost “Original Song” to James Horner’s “My Heart Will Go On” (Will Jennings provided the lyrics famously sung by Celine Dion).

You can listen to the two songs, and decide for yourself, but as far as I’m concerned this award was stolen from Smith. I was going to make a lame, tasteless joke about how “My Heart Will Go On” should have gone down like the Titanic, but it’s probably too soon. Besides, I like to keep it on the safe side and follow the century rule (slavery, ha!), so be expecting many Titanic jokes on Indie Muse in 2012.

But in all seriousness, RIP Elliott. You’ve changed a lot of lives for the better.

Song Version:

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Full “Academy Award” Version:

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New Moon (2007):

(mp3) Elliott Smith – Miss Misery (Early Version)

Titanic (1997):

(mp3) James Horner – My Heart Will Go On (instrumental)

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Feb 18 2009

Farms in Trouble – “The Gas Station Soundtrack” (2008)

Published by under Midwest,MP3's,Video


Over winter break, I got a chance to give a visit to a few local record stores and a few in Milwaukee as well. On a freezing night, inside of one of the last open shops on Brady St., a not-so-shabby local chain, I fished out The Gas Station Soundtrack by Farms in Trouble. In a plastic sleeve, pressed firmly in the fold of a rectangle of cardboard–the diagram of a patchwork quilt screened on its front–was a disc that the clerk assured me was “dirty.” I don’t think I realized what he meant until later. I gave him $6, the cost of the album. It sat for a few weeks with all the other albums I collected over the break.

This 27-track epic is the product of Zack Pieper and Riles Walsh (of The Candliers), Milwaukee’s own, better known as Farms in Trouble in their 10-piece format. Totaling in at 42 minutes, this album is genius. It’s also, admittedly, dirty. For several reasons. I’ve just finished listening to it, and aside from the fact that my head is still spinning from the manic joy of the whole thing, its texture is also a force to be reckoned with. It’s not lo-fi, it’s not proper, it’s not simple and it’s certainly not a demo. It’s… dirty. No single song breaks the 3-minute mark, but if you weren’t following along, you’d swear there was a long one in there, for sure. Each track lends itself to the next in some way, sometimes chordally, or lyrically, but more often with a particular juxtaposition that makes it rough and crude without losing its charm and brilliance.

As I looked back at the album art, I saw the patchwork drawing. A collection of grids, dotted lines, arrows and what I think are pieces of a city map, the album truly does resemble a patchwork collage. The Gas Station Soundtrack is homegrown. It is rough on the edges and jagged in the seams. There is absolutely no way I could describe this album with a few songs, so I’ve picked some momentary favorites.

MP3: Farms in Trouble – “Pleasure Dome”

MP3: Farms in Trouble – “Like A Needle In Heaven”

MP3: Farms in Trouble – “My Beautiful Baby Born Inside Out”

MP3: Farms in Trouble – “Many Boss Levels”

Support Farms in Trouble: Activities Recordings | MySpace

Here’s a video for “Empty Arrows and Exit Signs” (Track 3)

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A friend of mine was talking about Guided By Voices recently, and I can’t help respect the elements of their early style that reflect in the ambitions of Farms in Trouble. Later I came to realize that Zack Pieper actually lists Robert Pollard as one of his influences.

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Feb 17 2009

Yann Tiersen Announces Tour Dates

Published by under Experimental,MP3's,Tour,Video


I just wanted to give a heads up that French composer Yann Tiersen is going on tour. He composed two of my favorite movies, Amélie & Good Bye Lenin!, and is supposed to be an incredible live performer.

He isn’t touring that many cities in the states (New York, Washington DC,  Chicago, Minneapolis, Seattle, Denver, Salt Lake City, Portland, San Francisco, and LA) so if you have the opportunity to see him, don’t pass it up!

If you are curious what to expect out of a Yann Tiersen show, Brooklyn Vegan brought this MusicOMH review to my attention:

He began his set on grand piano – and his piano pieces are rarely other than delightful. What wasn’t obvious from listening to his albums was instantly so here – it isn’t someone playing melodica or accordion with him as he tinkles the ivories. Oh no. He plays both instruments at the same time.

After each track, rapturous applause greeted him as he shifted between piano, melodica, accordion, violin, viola, bass, guitar and even vocals. A rare chance was afforded to the audience to hear a solo viola piece, Qu’En Reste-t-il? from L’Absente, in which at any moment sparks could have flown from the instrument as Yann fiddled for all he was worth. Here was a man making electricity spark from an acoustic instrument before our very eyes. His playing was enough to make members of his audience weep at its beauty.

Tabarly Soundtrack (2008):

(mp3) Yann Tiersen – Au Dessous Du Volcan

Amélie Soundtrack (2001):

(mp3) Yann Tiersen – Comtine D’un Autre Ete: L’apres Midi

(mp3) Yann Tiersen – Pas Si Simple

(mp3) Yann Tiersen – La Valse D’Amelie (orchestra version)

Good Bye Lenin! Soundtrack(2004):

(mp3) Yann Tiersen – Summer 78 (instrumental)

(mp3) Yann Tiersen – Mother’s Journey

(mp3) Yann Tiersen – Lara’s Castle

Site | iTunes | Amazon | Myspace

click to see dates…

Yann Tiersen – 2009 Tour Dates
Apr 15 – Maison Française WASHINGTON
Apr 16 – Irving Plaza NEW YORK
Apr 17 – Club Soda MONTREAL
Apr 18 – Club Soda MONTREAL
Apr 19 – Mod Club Theatre TORONTO
Apr 21 – Logan Theatre CHICAGO
Apr 22 – Triple Rock Social MINNEAPOLIS
Apr 24 – Blue Bird DENVER
Apr 25 – Urban Lounge SALT LAKE CITY
Apr 27 – Richards VANCOUVER
Apr 28 – Neumo’s SEATTLE
Apr 29 – Wonder Ballroom PORTLAND
May 1 – Great American SAN FRANCISCO
May 2 – El Rey LOS ANGELES
May 8 – Queens Hall EDINBURG
May 10 – Duchess YORK
May 11 – Academy II BIRMINGHAM
May 13 – Junction CAMBRIDGE
May 14 – Electric Ballroom LONDON
May 15 – ATP fest “The Breeders” MINEHEAD
May 17 – Pheonix EXETER
May 18 – Komedia BATH
May 19 – Concorde II BRIGHTON
Jul 4 – Centro de artes e do espectaculos FIGUEIRA DA FOZ
Jul 5 – Casa das artes VILA NOVA DE FAMALICAO
Jul 6 – Centro cultural de Belem LISBOA

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Feb 12 2009

Shenandoah Davis – We; Camera (2008)

Published by under Folk,MP3's,Tour,Video


If you are a fan of She & Him, Forest City Lovers, or Regina Spektor, be sure to check out Seattle based singer/songwriter Shenandoah Davis.  Although her minimalist lo-fi sound isn’t for everyone, I am a big fan of her piano compositions and, for the most part, really enjoy her classical vocals. Her voice will definitely draw some comparisons to Joanna Newsom, but in my opinion, Davis’ vocals are much more pleasant.

The title track “We; Camera,” along with “These Rocks,” “Hobos and Bulls,” “Take Ourselves Out,” and “Up&Over” are my favorite tracks on her 2008 debut album.  These songs carry a vintage sound, as if they came straight out of the early 1900s. This, aligned with Davis’ confident voice, makes for a really unique treat (not to mention that she incorporates the vibraphone & accordion). We; Camera is also a concise album, with most tracks coming in under three minutes long.

As her biography states, Shenandoah Davis started teaching herself piano at the age of three and continued her classical studies up until college, where she decided to audition as a classical voice major despite having no prior vocal training. Studying classical voice, piano, jazz guitar and harp during college, she became frustrated with the ‘tunnel vision’ and politics of academia and, swearing off classical music after completing her degree, she began composing on her own. In the winter of 2006, a series of “travels and tribulations” led her to Seattle, where she currently resides. In January of last year, Davis released a 7 track EP, entitled Milagros, and her full-length debut released last July. She also plays accordion, piano and vibraphone with Grand Hallway, accordion and wurli with Jack Wilson and the Wife Stealers, and a as-of-now-only-recording project with secret other people called hello, broken arrow. She’s playing some shows in Seattle, so if you live there, check her Myspace for dates.

We; Camera (2008):

(mp3) Shenandoah Davis –  We; Camera

(mp3) Shenandoah Davis – These Rocks

(mp3) Shenandoah Davis- Up & Over (I really like this composition)

myspace | itunes | cdbaby

Here is a really creative and quirky music video for “We; Camera.” Directed by Clyde Peterson. I like this a lot.

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Feb 10 2009

Insane Bonnaroo Lineup Announced!

Published by under MP3's

So, it’s true that I had my doubts after last year’s ‘Roo, but that won’t stop me from proverbially “blowing my load” over the announced lineup that came out last week. Just so you know, tickets are almost sold out. Already.

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In between major players like Oakenfold, The Beastie Boys, Nine Inch Nails, Erykah Badu, Snoop Dogg, The Mars Volta and (of course…) Phish, this years Bonnaroo shows some interesting attention to indie acts. While we have seen the likes of Radiohead, The Flaming Lips and the usual 4-hour My Morning Jacket set in the past, no year has been so comprehensive.

Wilco, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Decemberists, Bon Iver, Andrew Bird, Jenny Lewis, Band of Horses, MGMT, TV on the Radio, of Montreal, Animal Collective, Neko Case, Grizzly Bear, Okkervil River, Elvis Perkins, Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, Chairlift… okay… just saying all those names out loud makes me feel like I’m just reading a list of crucial indie acts from the past few years. Every year I ask myself, “Would I check out these guys if they came through Boston?” You know the answer. In addition, amazing world acts such as KING SUNNY ADE, Femi Kuti and Toubab Krewe as well as guaranteed dance parties from Galactic and Santogold mean that while I have no idea what it’s going to be like, the music is still some of the best around and there’s something for everyone too.

More to come about Bonnaroo as news is announced, but just understand… if you love MUSIC, it will surely be in Manchester, TN from June 11th to the 14th.

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Feb 09 2009

Fan Modine – Homeland (2004)


The past few weeks, I’ve been listening to a band called Fan Modine. A friend introduced me to their 2004 LP Homeland, and I could tell 30 seconds in that this was an album that I was going to like. Give them a listen if you enjoy the Magnetic Fields, Belle & Sebastian, Arcade Fire, or Stars.

The band has an upbeat indie-pop sound that features some really solid instrumentals. After lead singer Gordon Zacharias helped the orchestral pop duo Hercules with vocals, they returned the favor by producing string arrangements on four songs (including two of the best tracks on the album, “Newstand of the Sun” and “Pageantry.”) There is also clarinet and electric harmonium, among other cool instruments.

A few years ago, main man behind Fan Modine, Gordon Zacharias, assembled a 5-piece band in Carrboro, NC, featuring Ash Bowie (Polvo, Libraness), Jeremy Chatelain (Jets to Brazil, Cub Country), Chuck Johnson (Shark Quest, Idyll Swords) and Lee Waters (Work Clothes, Lud). The band hasn’t released an album since Homeland, which means it’s been 5 years since they’ve released new material, but their Myspace says that a third album is in process “slowly.” Homeland is Zacharias’ sophomore album (debut is Slow Road to Tiny Empire), and he purportedly started work on the album while working as a “professional dog walker” in downtown Manhattan. The album was recorded in 5 different places across the US, including New York, LA, New Orleans, Western Massachusetts, and North Carolina.

Homeland (2004):

(mp3) Fan Modine – Newstand of the Sun

(mp3) Fan Modine – Pageantry

(mp3) Fan Modine – Waiting in the Wings

site | itunes | myspace

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Feb 05 2009

Loney Dear @ 9:30 Club, Washington DC (02/03/09)


On Tuesday, I saw Swedish band Loney Dear open for Andrew Bird, and must say, I almost enjoyed their set more than Mr. Bird’s. . . which is  saying a lot, given Bird is one of my very favorite musicians. I’ve been listening to their music for a few years now, but Tuesday night’s live performance gave me a whole new appreciation.

The best part of the set was when lead singer Emil Svanängen asked the crowd to sing along on “I Am John.” It was really beautiful. You can listen to the set on NPR (“I am John” is 20 minutes in), but the recording quality doesn’t really pay justice to the performance. Svanängen is a really personable guy too,  and strikes a perfect balance between being confident (talking a lot to the crowd), and bashful, which can be verified by anyone who saw him putting on a band-aid after his minor guitar string accident. He also called the Black Cat (venue) the “very black cat,” and the 9:30 club balcony “shelves,” which I thought was pretty funny.

The band has a new album that came out January 27th called Dear John. I prefer the lighter tone of their 2007 debut album, Loney, Noir,  but Dear John still has some solid songs on it.

Loney Dear is from Jonkoping, Sweden, and its primary member, Emil Svanängen, first began making homemade recordings of delicate, folkish indie pop in the early 2000s. As Loney, Dear (the band has since deleted the comma from its name), Svanängen self-released three homemade CD-Rs through his website: River Fontana Redux, Citadel Band, and Sologne. As buzz developed through MP3 blogs and other new media manifestations, Sub Pop offered Svanängen a contract in 2006. The first proper Loney Dear album, Loney, Noir, was released in early 2007.

Dear John (2009):

Loney Dear – Airport Surroundings

Loney, Noir (2007):

Loney Dear – I Am John

Loney Dear – I Will Call You Lover Again

Sologne (2006):

Loney Dear – I Fought The Battle Of Trinidad & Tobago

site | amazon | itunes myspace

Tour dates & “Airport Surroundings” video after the break.

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